Conford, Gaulkin and Kilkenny. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, S.j.a.d.
[75 NJSuper Page 460] These are consolidated declaratory judgment proceedings brought in this court pursuant to R.R. 4:88-10 attacking the validity and reasonableness of certain orders of the late Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Carl Holderman, revising the requirements for the reporting of industrial accidents and compensable occupational diseases. Plaintiffs sue as representatives of affected insurance companies carrying workmen's compensation liability coverage, insured employers and self-insured employers. This court heretofore settled the procedure for the making of the record herein in New Jersey Mfrs. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Holderman , 54 N.J. Super. 260 (App. Div. 1959), wherein a fuller description of the background of this action will be found. Subsequently, Commissioner Holderman died, and Commissioner Raymond F. Male assumed office as his successor. He conducted the hearings ordered by this court at various times between December 15, 1959 and February 26, 1960, in the course of which there was amassed a record of testimony and exhibits which, together with the findings and other pleadings in this matter, comprises a printed record of almost 3,000 pages. At the conclusion of the hearings the Commissioner filed his "Findings of Fact and Conclusions," wherein he determined that the prescribed forms and regulations were reasonable and necessary for the conduct of several agencies in the Department, but ordered certain modifications to accord with what he
found to be constructive suggestions and views by both sides during the hearings.
The processing of this litigation and its submission to the court were unfortunately delayed not only by the circumstance of the transition of official responsibility in the office of the respondent, but also by illnesses and substitutions of counsel on one side or the other and negotiations for settlement of the dispute which it was represented to the court during the proceedings promised a fair prospect of success. While it appears that substantial concessions were made by the respondent to meet the objections of plaintiffs, the latter remain basically dissatisfied, as indicated at argument, in two substantial respects: (1) the requirement for submission of medical information and diagnoses to the Division of Workmen's Compensation and to injured employees; and (2) the requirement, as to self-insured employers, for early initial reporting of accidents, i.e. , at the same time as insured employers, in place of the requirement in R.S. 34:15-97, which calls for reporting immediately upon knowledge of an accident (or compensable occupational disease) causing disability extending beyond the seven-day waiting period or any permanent injury.
The final adoption by Commissioner Holderman of the revised forms of accident reporting on October 1, 1958 was preceded by a long period of study and analysis within the Department of Labor and Industry, as well as of consultation and exchange of viewpoints with representatives of employers and insurance carriers, beginning early in 1956, when the Commissioner enlisted the advice of Dr. Monroe Berkowitz, a member of the faculty of the Department of Economics of Rutgers University, relative to improvement of administrative procedures in various divisions and bureaus of the Department of Labor and Industry, particularly as to the processing of workmen's compensation claims. Dr. Berkowitz made three reports to the Department on the subject, the last on July 12, 1956. He found many of the
procedures antiquated, inefficient and functionally obsolete, particularly in respect of record keeping, filing and cross-referral, both in the Division of Workmen's Compensation and in other agencies in the Department concerned with matters of worker welfare, safety and accident statistics. He made specific recommendations, including the basic substance of the accident report forms now in controversy. In part, however, these were designed to reduce or eliminate unnecessary or duplicative reporting of accidents or of information relating thereto by employers and insurers.
The recommendations were studied by administrative officials in the Department with a view toward regulatory implementation, consultants including key personnel in the Division of Workmen's Compensation and representatives of agencies having responsibility for safety and industrial accident prevention, rehabilitation of injured workers, accident statistics, and supervision of laws concerning the welfare of female and minor workers. There was a consensus that earlier reporting by self-insured employers, reorganization of the information on the forms, and the expanded medical information required would subserve better administration of statutory objectives, particularly in the Division of Workmen's Compensation and the Bureau of Engineering and Safety. See infra. While no formal or public hearings were conducted by Commissioner Holderman relative to the adoption of the proposed new accident reporting requirements, it is indubitable that all representative industry, employer and insurance groups or associations were consulted in advance of promulgation, their views solicited, and some of their suggestions reflected in the content of the forms finally adopted by him.
In view of the substantial narrowing of the dispute herein at argument to the two basic new requirements of the revised report forms, as noted above, we find it unnecessary to catalogue in detail the various types of reports required before and after the directive under review. Previously,
the reports required substantially accorded with the specifications of R.S. 34:15-96 to 102, inclusive (sometimes referred to as the Accident Reporting Act). It will be helpful here to set forth the full text of this statute (for ease of identification we supply the revisers' headings):
"34:15-96. Reports of accident
Every employer carrying insurance as required by article 5 of this chapter (§ 34:15-70 et seq.) shall make report in accordance with the terms of his insurance policy upon the happening of any accident or the occurrence of any compensable occupational disease in his establishment. Such report shall be prepared in triplicate upon a form, designated as 'first notice of accident', to be furnished by the insurance carrier. One copy shall be sent to the department of labor, one copy to the insurance carrier, and one copy shall be kept on file by the employer. A supplemental report shall be prepared on a form designated as 'supplemental report', and sent in like manner, at the expiration of the waiting period prescribed by section 34:15-14 of this title. If, however, the employee is able to resume work before the expiration of the waiting period, the supplemental report shall be sent immediately upon his return. Thereafter the employer shall promptly furnish the carrier the information demanded and necessary to enable it to carry out the intent of this chapter. These reports on the first notice and supplemental forms, filed with the state, must be signed by the employer and mailed by him directly to the workmen's compensation bureau, as a check on the operations of the insurance company."
"34:15-97. Report by employer not carrying insurance
An employer not carrying compensation insurance shall make report of any accident or compensable occupational disease causing a disability extending beyond the waiting period or causing any permanent injury. The report shall be prepared and sent immediately upon the employer's having knowledge of the disability or injury named above, and shall be made out in duplicate upon forms to be secured from the workmen's compensation bureau. One copy shall be mailed to the bureau and one copy kept on file by the employer. Within three weeks after the accident, or the obtaining of knowledge of compensable occupational disease, the employer operating under article 2 of this chapter (§ 34:15-7 et seq.), shall send to the bureau a second report, containing a statement of wages and an agreement to care for the case according to the terms of the compensation law. This form shall be signed by the employee as provided thereon and by the employer. Immediately upon the employee's recovering so as to be able to resume work, the employer
shall file with the bureau a final report, setting forth the length of disability, the nature and extent of permanent injury, if any, and the compensation payable for each. This form shall also be signed by the employer and the employee."
"34:15-98. Report by insurance carrier
Every insurance carrier writing workmen's compensation insurance in this state shall make report of accident, or compensable occupational disease, as follows: Immediately upon receiving knowledge of an accident to an employee, or the contracting of a compensable occupational disease, causing a disability extending beyond the waiting period or causing any permanent injury, the company insuring the employer of such employee, shall at once make report to the workmen's compensation bureau on a form prescribed by the bureau. Within three weeks after the carrier has learned of the accident or the contraction of such disease, such carrier shall send to the bureau a second report containing a statement of wages and an agreement to care for the case according to the terms of the compensation law. This report shall be signed by the employee as provided thereon and by the employer or insurance carrier. Immediately upon the carrier's learning that the employee has recovered so as to be able to resume work, the carrier shall prepare a final report, and take the steps necessary to have it signed by the employee, as provided thereon. This form shall also be signed by the employer or carrier and sent to the bureau as promptly as possible. When an employee refuses to sign any of the required forms, that fact shall be noted on the blank at the point where the signature should be placed, and the forms filed with the bureau. These forms shall be fully prepared before presentation to the employee for his signature. It shall be unlawful to request or direct any injured employee to sign blank forms to be later filled out and filed with the bureau."
"34:15-99. Report not public
The first reports of accidents filed with the workmen's compensation bureau, shall not be made public, and shall not be open to inspection unless, in the opinion of the commissioner of labor, some public interest shall so require, and such reports shall not be used as evidence against any employer in any suit or action at law brought by an employee for the recovery of damages."
"34:15-100. Medical reports
As a part of the necessary medical service required by the compensation law, the employer or insurance carrier shall, when directed so to do, file with the workmen's compensation bureau copies of such medical certificates or reports as it may have on file."
"34:15-101. Penalty for noncompliance
Every employer, insurer or other person failing to comply with the terms of this article shall, for each offense, be liable to a penalty of not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars, the amount thereof to be determined by and paid to the commissioner of labor. Upon refusal to pay such fine, the same shall be recovered in an ...